Following a long career in dance competitions with her dance partner Ryan McShane, earlier this year, Ksenia Zsikhotska could be seen competing on Dancing with the Stars in Ireland, where she came fourth alongside singer Dayl Cronin. Ksenia has been dancing from a young age and has competed and performed all over the world. Having just got back from holiday, Ksenia talks to us about being a professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars Ireland, performing at competitions with Ryan McShane and the opening of her new dance studio, Studio1.
As a dancer on the new Dancing with the Stars Ireland, what was the first series of the show like to be part of and how did you get involved with it?
The first season on Dancing With The Stars was amazing, it’s such a great show to be part of… Darren Bennett, one of the producers, approached me and asked if this is something that I would be interested in and it went from there.
You were partnered with singer Dayl Cronin, how was it teaching him and how different was it dancing with a celebrity partner on the show opposed to your professional dance partner of many years, Ryan McShane?
I couldn’t have wished to be teamed up with anyone better than Dayl. He is a great dancer in his field and that allowed me to challenge the choreography as much as I did. Dancing with a professional partner in a style that you both are trained in is completely different to dancing with someone who is not from that background in dance.
What was the experience like performing on live TV every week?
Adrenaline and excitement come into play and I couldn’t wait to get out there. Of course, there are a few nerves, but we all put in so much time from every aspect… i.e. set, costumes, themes and music, you feel a great sense of achievement to be able to perform (and share it with a great audience…) at the end of the week. I am very grateful for all the support I received.
How do you prepare for professional competitions with Ryan McShane and how much does your lifestyle change in the lead-up?
Your lifestyle completely changes as a competitor, you need to adapt yourself to a very intense training regime, correct diet, mental preparation and, of course, costumes!
Do you ever get nervous when performing at a competition?
Performing can be daunting to say the least, no matter if it’s on the competition floor, stage or live TV because there are so many factors that can go wrong. But the great thing about Latin and Ballroom is that you are not on your own and the partnership works as a support magnesium.
Are you and Ryan still competing and what was your most recent competition together?
Ryan and I retired from competitive dancing last November when we became British Closed Professional Latin Champions UK show dance champions which was an unforgettable feeling to end our competitive dancing career on a high!
Having toured around the world as a dancer, what’s it like performing in new and different venues every night?
I am fortunate enough to tour around the world and perform on different stages and to great audiences, I love every second of it and wouldn’t change it for the world.
Do you have a favourite dance to perform?
I am a Latin girl at heart, I love how passionate and rhythmical the Latin rhythms are… but I can be swayed to the romantic and classical side of ballroom.
The Charleston looks like a fun dance to do, is it difficult to choreograph?
No, not at all as I really enjoy choreographing this one. As soon as I hear the music I can visualise the dance. Dancing with Dayl allowed me to go crazy because he is very talented.
Have you had any disasters on the dance floor that you can tell us about?
Where do I start! There is always something that could go wrong, no matter how much you have prepared. At one of my first competitions, my shoes came off halfway through the dance and my dress was unhooking itself! One of my dresses was so heavy stoned that dancing with it was difficult, but you just have to make it work at the time and remember the show must go on.
What do you enjoy most about being a professional dancer and is there anyone that motivates you to get even better at what you do?
Being creative, performing, having the chance to travel the world and meet amazing people.
My mum is my greatest motivation, she knows me too well… I also find motivation in life and the things I do or people I come across.
You moved from Ukraine to the UK when you were young, do you think you would have still got into dancing if you had stayed in Ukraine?
There is no doubt that I would still be dancing if I was living in Ukraine as it’s something that I am very passionate about.
How did you get into ballroom dancing and how many hours a week did you rehearse when starting out?
I actually started with folk dancing at the age of four back in Ukraine, but when my mum and myself moved to England, other things were prioritised and dancing took a back seat for a while. Then, at the age of fourteen, I realised how much I missed it and really wanted to get back dancing.
At first, dancing was a hobby to me, so for the earlier stages of it, I only did a few hours a week. When I decided to take it up professionally and competitively, the hours of rehearsal changed dramatically, I would train up to six hours a day, six to seven days a week.
You have recently returned from holiday, do you find it difficult fitting in holidays with your work schedule?
It can be tricky but it’s important to get away and do something different, even if it’s for a few days only, I like to be a little spontaneous and unwind.
What do you enjoy doing away from your career and what do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a professional dancer?
Ryan and I, along with James and Fran from JF Dance, have just opened a new studio in Walsall in the UK called Studio1, so we are currently working hard to promote this and encourage dancers to get involved. Aside from that, I am teaching, lecturing, judging and, of course, continuing to do shows. I love teaching, passing on my dance knowledge and then seeing the results.
My second passion is designing and fashion. I have always designed my own competitive dresses, I love the creative side of it all. Doing DWTS made me realise that I really enjoyed the production side and it’s something that I would love to explore more.
Do you have any advice for new dancers starting out?
It is a great skill to learn whether you take it up professionally or as a hobby. Dance is a language that is used all around the world and it’s a great social skill to have, keeping you fit is just a bonus.
What do you hope the rest of 2017 will bring for your career?
2017 has been great to me so far, I have done so many incredible things that I don’t know where to start so hopefully it continues in this way.
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